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Auditor lauds G-M business manager hire

Report shows numerous errors under previous management service

TURNERS FALLS — The Gill-Montague Regional School District’s auditor last month congratulated the School Committee on its choice of a new business manager, laying out a report critical of the business management of the past two years.

Patrice Squillante of the accounting firm Melanson Heath presented the results of an annual audit and findings for a management letter required of large federal grant recipients at the last School Committee meeting.

Squillante said the audit for the fiscal year 2013 — the 2012-2013 school year — found numerous errors in the accounting records.

“You may remember we had very similar issues last year as well,” Squillante said.

The district has since changed its business management.

Hired following the resignation of the in-house business administrator, the Auburn-based municipal and school management services contractor The Management Solution served as the district’s business manager from Feb. 2012 until this June.

Squillante and district officials did not refer to The Management Solution by name in discussing the results of the audit.

The School Committee and new Superintendent Michael Sullivan hired an in-house manager this year, former Mohawk Regional School District business manager Joanne Blier.

Squillante said she has worked with Blier at Mohawk. “I’m well aware of Joanne’s capabilities and I don’t expect these (problems), certainly not the material ones or the significant deficiencies, to appear again next year,” Squillante said.

Problems found included adjustment of unequal budget projections and spending to appear equal. Squillante said this is not a normal accounting practice and while not a legal concern, left budget planners with meaningless documents.

“They knew overall you were at zero, you had spent everything, but its completely meaningless to have a budget that has no variances, because then you don’t know where you overspent and underspent,” Squillante said. Squillante said it was Sullivan who pointed out the uninformative documents.

Adjustments were made to the sum spent rather than the sum budgeted, as is more usual, and were not taken to the School Committee for approval, she said.

Reached for comment by The Recorder, TMS owner Andrew Paquette said he wasn’t given an opportunity to comment, and shouldn’t without seeing a copy of the audit and management letter.

“I really can’t comment on it, but I’m not surprised,” Paquette said.

“For a district in transition and there were some things along the way in terms of procedure and things that we were trying to get to the bottom of, so hindsight being what it is, could we have done things differently? Absolutely,” Paquette said. “Our company and our concept is something that doesn’t work for all districts.” Paquette said the company did not adversely affect the district by being there for two years.

School Committee Chairwoman Joyce Phillips said Squillante’s report answered a lot of questions and clarified uncertainties the committee has had. “I also think that between our new superintendent, our new business manager, we feel confident in the direction and changes that are going to take effect,” Phillips said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: curtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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